By Jon Keller

BOSTON (CBS) – It isn’t very often that we get a news story out of Washington that can accurately be described as a turning point. For all of the hype that surrounds it, our political process is constructed to dilute the impact of any single event through deliberation and delay.

But the start of two days of testimony Tuesday before Congressional Committees by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg could be a profound moment in our economic and cultural history.

For the first time, Zuckerberg may be forced to confront unpleasant truths about the way he does business outside of his protective bubble and under oath.

Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana put it well Sunday.

“We have a problem. Our promised digital utopia has minefields in it. Mr. Zuckerberg has not exhausted himself being forthcoming,” he told CBS News’ Face the Nation.

Instead, Zuckerberg has built one of the world’s richest and most influential companies on a foundation of deceit and exploitation. Over and over and over again, Facebook has been caught violating its users trust and privacy and acting like a predatory monopoly, feigning surprise and contrition when its abuses are exposed and issuing hollow promises of reform.

zuckerberg1 Keller @ Large: Congress To Give Mark Zuckerberg A Well Deserved Beating

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill, April 9, 2018. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

They are hardly the only tech giant to be guilty of irresponsible behavior, and abusive business practices are not confined to the tech world. But Zuckerberg has led the league in sanctimony and phony rhetoric about “bringing us together,” even as he enabled divisiveness to poison the well.

Zuckerberg is going to take a well-deserved beating today and tomorrow from members of Congress. Here’s hoping it shocks him and his fellow predators into some genuine soul-searching.

Talk back to me via email at keller@wbztv.com, or use Twitter, @kelleratlarge.

Comments (3)
  1. The portions of the hearing that I watched, Jon, except for the questioning of Senator Cruz, was nothing but puff-ball questions answered with the story line of either the lawyers or the PR staff, depending on the question.

    Note that one Senator had the gall to hold up a copy of Facebook’s Terms of Service and ask the question if Zuckerberg seriously believed anyone ever read the tome. The non-answer that Mr. Zuckerberg gave was allowed to dribble into the puddle with the rest of his non-answers.

    A few minutes later, when questioned about the Facebook app targeting young children, Mr. Zuckerberg gave the legalistic answer that “the parents have full control”. I’ll not comment on the absurdity of Mr. Zuckerberg’s assumption as it is likely that which his legal eagles have tried to drum in, but it really begged the question of just how effective the policy really was.

    He remarked in closing that segment of questioning that at 13 years old the youngster has to get his OWN Facebook account, putting kid in the crosshairs of the data collection capabilities of Facebook’s data center.

    What struck me was the connection of those two thoughts, or rather, the degree of disconnection between the hundred or so of carefully constructed legal mumbo-jumbo and the ability of a 13 year old to understand it.

    If we have eighteen-, nineteen- and twenty-year-olds having difficulty understanding that when you take out a loan to fund your college dreams that the money hast to be paid back at some time, how can H and his company possibly think that a 13-year-old would be able to understand a Terms of Service contract that had been constructed by law-school graduates, and likely by law-school grads from schools at the caliber of Harvard, Stamford, or Yale?

    Someone in another set of comments, likely the NY Times, offered the suggestion that companies like Facebook and Google be forced to operate at the standards of fiduciary responsibility to the extent that they decision making, include responsibility with regard to the relationship between a trustee and a beneficiary.

    Such a restriction doesn’t preclude making decisions based on profits. After all banks, loan companies, trust companies and the like all operate on the profit motive. But such a restriction would put the “client”, “customer”, “user” on a more equal footing with the ethical treatment by the corporations.

    I would also suggest that such companies be prohibited from restricting any political advertisement, other than those that advocate violence or criminal action, by any properly registered candidate or advocacy organization that is recognized or legitimately applying for recognition under the IRS codes.

    These are all matters that are far too serious and far to important to leave to the whims of a less-than-ethical whiz kid and his buddies who are skimming billions off the backs of The People.

    Note, too, Mr. Zuckerberg has foregone a fair amount of the “trust” that he requested during not-infrequent past eruptions of privacy issues.

    Remember, the Federal Trade Commission in August 2012 posted the following on their web site:

    “Following a public comment period, the FTC has accepted as final a settlement with Facebook resolving charges that Facebook deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”

    Mr. Zuckerberg’s promises a demonstrably hollow.

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